Can I be a Contractor?

Can I be a Contractor?

In many ways, overseas contractors are a microcosm of the U.S. workforce. Of course, there is a significant difference between a place like Diego Garcia and a place like Delaware, but the work required in each can run parallel much of the time.

American military and private contractors have served on foreign soil ever since before the United States was a nation. In the summer of 1775, almost immediately after the Revolutionary War broke out, the newly-formed Continental Army mounted an invasion of Canada. Led by future traitor Benedict Arnold, American troops converged on Quebec. But the British turned back the invaders in December 1775 in a battle fought during a blowing snowstorm. The combination of a smallpox outbreak among Continental soldiers and the arrival of British and Hessian reinforcements under John Burgoyne made another invasion impossible.

Arnold’s army required a litany of support personnel, such as cooks, teamsters, doctors, and administrative support. Back then, these individuals were poorly-paid or unpaid “camp followers.” Today, these people are highly paid private contractors.

Where Contractors Serve

Today’s contractors do not just support the U.S. army. They also serve in a wide range of rebuilding and other capacities. So, they are spread all over the globe. Some contractor deployment areas are well-known places. Others, not so much.

If you have never heard of Diego Garcia, you are not alone. It is a dot in the south Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia was an emergency landing spot during the Space Shuttle program. Supposedly, it was also the location of a black-ops CIA interrogation center shortly after 9/11.

Diego Garcia is an important logistical base that is also home to one of the three GPS towers in the world.

Over a dozen American military units are stationed on Diego Garcia. These units require many of the support personnel listed above. There is also a significant need for communications and other specialists on this island atoll. Finally, pretty much everything comes onto or leaves Diego Garcia by ship. So, there is a great need for experienced longshoremen.

If you have any of these skills and you want to get away from it all for a while, Diego Garcia may be the place for you.

In many ways, Japan is on the other end of the world. Geographically, East Asia is an awful long way from the Indian Ocean middle-of-nowhere. In terms of lifestyle, there are some significant differences, as well. Tokyo is larger than New York City, and there are several other cities in Japan that are almost as big.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has maintained a large military presence here. Currently, there are about 50,000 troops in Japan. Many of them are on Okinawa. Many Japanese are pro-American, but some are not. Tokyo and Washington have tentatively agreed to shift many of these troops to Guam, but the growing North Korean menace has put these plans on hold for now.

Nearly all the contractors in Japan are in troop support roles. That includes not only logistical operations, but also things like construction and renovation. There is a large American diplomatic presence in Japan, as well. The various installations need security personnel and administrative support personnel.

When most people think of private overseas contractors, they think of security contractors in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A few contractors serve on the front lines, like the ones in Michael Bay’s film 13 Hours. But most armed contractors in the MENA (Middle East and North AFrica) region man checkpoints, check identification badges, and escort VIPs.

After the fighting ends, large numbers of contractors will probably stay behind. After many years of war, these nations require significant rebuilding. The workers also need protection from marauding bands of militants.

Some Things to Know

If you desire a radical change, a stint as an overseas contractor may be just what the doctor ordered. Most people know that they need a passport and a security clearance before they start emailing resumes. But there are some other considerations, as well.

  • The salary is quite high, usually in excess of $95,000 a year. Contrary to popular myth, this money may not all be tax-free. The 2018 Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion is $104,100. Most stateside contractors know that the salary comes with zero job security and zero benefits, so there is a significant tradeoff.
  • Your work schedule may be quite different, as well. A few contractors work 9-to-5 Monday through Friday. But many others work 12-hour shifts six days a week. KBR and other private contractor companies obviously believe in getting their money’s worth.
  • Most contractors provide living spaces. Generally, these spaces are off-base condominiums or apartments. If you want to live closer to work or want a larger space, you will need to negotiate for a housing allowance in lieu of a housing provision.

Finally, bear in mind that American military personnel are not very popular in most parts of the world. During the Second World War, many Britons loudly complained that U.S. troops were “overpaid, oversexed, and over here.” If that is how our close allies feel, you should probably expect no love elsewhere.

Injury Compensation Available

A serious injury far from home is always a scary thing. These incidents are even more unsettling when the victim is a family’s primary breadwinner. So, the Defense Base Act provides compensation when victims and their families need it most. The types of compensation include:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Most contractor injuries are TTDs. The victims are unable to work as they recover. So, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their disabilities.
  • Permanent Total Disability: Some victims are either not able to work again or not able to pursue their previous occupations. The amount of compensation varies in these cases, usually depending on the type of injury and the victim’s work background.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Many victims never fully recover from their injuries. For example, a contractor with a broken shoulder may experience permanent loss of motion in that joint. The amount of compensation typically depends on the location and extent of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: After some physical therapy, many victims move from TTD to TPD status. They can work, but must accept a light duty assignment. The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference for the duration of the TPD.

The aforementioned average weekly wage is not always a straightforward calculation. There is a big difference in salary between a security guard in Kansas City and a security guard in Kandahar. Moreover, the AWW usually also includes non-cash compensation, such as housing allowance and per diem.

To learn about DBA compensation for medical bills, contact Barbnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.